Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The Writers Room

Hmmm. I seem to have allowed myself to be flattered into doing voluntary work for BBC Radio Kent. After my appearance last week whilst still high on adrenalin and therefore probably talking rubbish fairly convincingly, a listener wrote in to Dominic King, the nice presenter I had spoken to, to say wouldn’t it be fun if we all wrote a story together with listeners contributing chapters. Yes, said Dominic, let’s ring Alis and see if she’ll kick it off. And read the chapters. And decide how to make a story out of them.

Well, to cut a long story short, initially, chapters morphed into chunks, for which read ‘a few lines’ and I was going to wade through the one/s which arrived each day and decide which was the best, stick it on the website and wait for more the following day. But that was deemed to be a competition which Radio Kent can’t do.

So I think what we’ve arrived at is that I start the story with a little opener – which I did yesterday on air – then listeners send in suggestions to what Mr King is calling ‘The Writers’ Room’ as to how the story should pan out. I get to read said suggestions and then we go back on air in a month’s time to discuss what fell on to the Writers’ Room cutting floor. And, clearly, what didn’t. Assuming I don’t have to read hundreds of submissions a day (I’m slightly hoping that the people of Kent haven’t been riveted, as a body, by my opener. A few dozen rivets would do me nicely) it could be a lot of fun.

I don’t know if we’re going to end up writing the story as per the top suggestion – that might be too competition-flavoured, I don’t know – but if not, how else could we generate a good finale for the Writers’ Room experiment?

What do you think, commenters and lurkers? If I don’t end up writing a story, will it be a bit of a damp squib, or will it be exciting enough for people to hear their ideas discussed?

I was asked for general pointers, to which I said:

a) decide whether this really is the begining of the story or whether it’s actually describing something near the end, so the whole story is explaining the beginning. Believe it or not, I actually put it better than that but I’m rushing this because I want to get it finished in draft before Messiah part 2.

b) choose a couple of characters and tell the story with your eye on them, don’t try to follow too many people

c) you can only have one plot in a short story. (Is this right, actually? I haven’t really written or read short stories for years, to my shame, except for a selection in one of the Sunday supplements a couple of months ago by tons of famous people which all turned out to be deeply depressing. Mostly about death, as I recall. But anyway, one plot for short stories, yes? Otherwise novella, surely?)

Anything else which I should have told the people of Kent lest they start producing sub-standard ideas?

And, in case anybody’s interested, this was the Kent-themed opener:

A field, grass worn to bare earth in patches, ragged trees in the middle distance, motionless under a heavy grey sky. A group of young men, all dressed alike, sprawl on the ground, joking, laughing, their muscles defined, their edge keen. A pale, slight youth rises to his feet as if to an unseen signal and his companions follow suit. Gathering in a tight knot, their jokiness left behind on the ground, they thrust their right arms into the closed centre of the circle, rigid, like spokes on a wheel. Fists pump, voices chant; there is an abrupt beat of silence and one voice is raised ‘Garden of England!’

1 comment:


I believe you should only have one plot in a short story, or a single narrative thread, at least, to keep things clean. Otherwise, I think you covered everything :)

Sounds interesting, and you probably will end up having to write a story to appease the listeners!!

I won a monthly "first-line" writing competition at BBC Radio Kent a couple of years ago, so I feel very warmly towards them! (It was pretty awful, but still...)

Good luck!